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by Jehuda Saar
Sunday
Jul222012

Cyclone...but with a V

Imagine attending an event with a few friends. All of you have iPhones. You all take them out and fire up a free app called Vyclone. You all start shooting video of the event from different angles. All the footage together is gathered into one clip that switches between the cameras, in sync. You can later remix anyone's clip and use the raw footage to your heart's content. Finally, you can share the final version. Minor piece of trivia: one of the founders of Vyclone happens to be Sting's son. Yes, THAT Sting.

 

Saturday
Jul212012

Happens every time

 

​Precisely one month ago I wrote about one of my favourite Mac and iOS apps: Sparrow, one of the most elegant email applications I have ever had the pleasure of using. Little did I know that, as I was writing these words, the company behind this little gem, based in Paris, were heavily in discussion with Google about being acquired. Well, it finally happened. In essence Google are buying the company, which is another way to say they hired the "talent" this small company represented. The company has already advised that they will halt development of Sparrow (and we had eagerly been awaiting the iPad version, which now will never see the light of day) as they are joining Google to work on in-house (most likely email related) projects. So, yes, there is a chance we might see Sparrow elements appear in future Google products for Mac or iOS, but it is clear it will never be the same as getting exciting and innovative updates to the cool, zen in its simplicity, fresh look at email program that is Sparrow.

Here is a little spoof quickly created by someone who feels pretty much the same way I do with this little piece of breaking news.​

Thursday
Jul192012

Tradition !!!

Some people have a hard time letting go of the "old ways". For those people there are solutions as well as far as accepting new tech. Here is one of them. A different way to take your iPhone calls. Can't say I agree with some of the casting and editing decisions for this video, but the product might attract some people.​

Wednesday
Jul182012

Tough as nails

I am very partial to Otter Box cases for the iPhone. So far the toughest case they built was the "Defender" model. I liked the fact that it even had a hard plastic screen cover that allowed clicking and swiping on the screen. This time they went further and created what might very well be THE ultimate iPhone case for anyone from extreme sports fanatics and all the way down to casual campers. The Armor Series for iPhone 4/4S even manages to look OK despite all the bulk. Chances are good that Otter Box will soon have to design an iPhone 5 model as well (unless of course Apple decide to call it the "New iPhone").

Wednesday
Jul182012

Here they go again...

First we had mac.com. I liked that one. I still use it. Then came me.com. Also liked that one. It was simple, easy to convey over the phone, easy to remember. But this time they messed with a good thing. Who in their right mind would want an email address like jsaar@icloud.com ? What were they thinking ? I understand that branding is important, but then learn from Microsoft: they still call their operating system "Windows". Did you see what Windows 8 looks like ? Any windows there ? There is such a thing as taking branding a tad too far. Seems I am not alone thinking this. I'm in good company. Here is a brief piece by Philip Elmer-Dewitt in Fortune magazine.

Friday
Jun292012

Chrome now on iPhone and iPad

I am not yet sure why I did this, but the second I heard that Chrome was available on the iTunes App Store, I went for it. I am almost exclusively a Safari user, but for some reason I felt the need to add Google's browser to my machines. I'll let you know when I figure out why that was so important, but in the meantime I did feel that the little ad Google prepared for this intro was worth watching. Enjoy.

Friday
Jun292012

Simply Fantasti......Cal !!!

For the past year I have been using this little utility that has become indispensible. It is safe to say that Apple's iCal is probably their worst piece of software. OK, maybe that dubious achievement award belongs to iTunes. But iCal is a close second. Entering events or reminders into iCal is simply tedious. Enter Fantastical. Type in "Dentist appointment tomorrow at 1PM" and watch Fantastical parse it correctly and create your reminder in iCal effortlesly. This little video really says it all. Highly recommended.

Friday
Jun222012

Two recent innovations Apple should steal

 

In the past few days two products were introduced by Apple competitors that have made some noise: Samsung came out with the Galaxy S III, and Microsoft once again entered the hardware business with the Surface. While I will leave reviewing or giving opinions on these products to people who are much more adept at this sort of thing, there are two particular innovations I liked a lot, one for each of these products, that I wouldn't mind if Apple "adapted" into their product line. The obvious one is of course the Surface's Touch Cover. In essence this is equivalent to the iPad's Smart Cover, except it has a built-in keyboard. Clever little bit of engineering and something I would enjoy much more than typing on the iPad screen.

The Galaxy S III also has all sorts of cool techie bells and whistles, but one of the coolest innovations there are what they call TecTiles. These are little $3 stickers, embedded with circuits, that activate certain things on the phone whenever the phone is near one of them. Imagine sticking one in your car and having it turn your phone's Bluetooth on as soon as you sit in it. I could think of other location-specific actions I would have these stickers trigger on my phone throughout a regular day.

So, Apple, pay attention, and find a way to bring these sort of concepts into our iOS world. Call it something else if you want, we won't mind. So long as we get to take advantage of the tech, we don't care who came up with it first.

 

Friday
Jun222012

LunaTik are at it again - this time with the iPhone

The makers of the TikTok and LunaTik cases for the iPod nano have this time decided to produce the TAKTIK, without a doubt THE coolest iPhone case out there....or ALMOST out there. For this is once again a Kickstarter project, but one they will no doubt succeed with handsomely yet again. Check out the super cool video below.

Thursday
Jun212012

History of email

In a piece entitled Timeline: A brief history of email, Glenn Fleishman of Macworld.com posted this cool graphic timeline.

Thursday
Jun212012

So simple why didn't I think of it...

And another one of those clever, simple, "illuminating" ideas you smack your head about saying "Why didn't I think of this ?" An exciting new Kickstarter project called CordLite: an illuminated charger cable for your iPhone.

Thursday
Jun212012

iPhone 5 (yeah...right)

As far as concept videos go, this one takes the cake

Thursday
Jun212012

Sparrow

For Mac and iPhone users who have been looking for a great Mail alternative, check out Sparrow. This is an elegant, simple, straightforward email program that I have been using concurrently to Mail for a while now and love dearly. Version 1.3 for the iPhone now adds POP email support (originally it was IMAP only and at first was just a Gmail client but has evolved since) which, from that perspective, brings it to parity with the Mac version. The site's iPhone page has a cute "emulator" that shows you what happens when you apply specific clicks or swipes to the app. If you integrate it with your FaceBook account it will pick up your friend's profile pictures into your mail messages. Definitely worth the detour.

Sunday
May062012

Adventures with Apple TV

 

A few months back I wrote about what we hoped would one day be an Apple branded television experience. The idea was that Apple would come out with a big screen TV that would revolutionize the way we watch the tube today (that is, for those of us who still watch TV following a network imposed schedule of some sort). But the truth is that, to some extent, that Apple branded TV experience already exists. I am of course talking here about the $99 little hockey puck sized "Apple TV". 

Interestingly enough I did not get it for the same reason that most people buy it for. Typical users of this item are looking to access online content easily (be it iTunes or Netflix for movies and TV series, or else to get the MLB.com, NHL or NBA channels for sports). Until we bought the Apple TV the only item hooked up to our main TV by HDMI was another little box called the WDTV. Current models can stream content over the internet, but our old model did only one thing, but did it well: it allowed us to hook up external hard drives chockfull of AVI and MP4 files and watch them on a dedicated HDMI channel on the family TV. Enter the new Apple TV. No longer do we need to worry about hooking up hard drives to anything, anywhere. This new little box lives on the home WiFi netwrok, accesses any iTunes library within reach that has Home Sharing turned on (a feature within iTunes) and can play that content anytime. This includes music, podcasts or even photos. In addition, anyone with an iPod touch, iPhone or iPad can beam content to the Apple TV and watch it on the big screen instantaneously. 

But there is a limitation: all this works very well so long as the files being played are MP4s. What about AVI files ?I spent some time researching possible solutions. Apple does not officially support that format. There are solutions out there that involve on the fly conversions of streaming files, but that looked way too complicated. I needed somehting the kids could manage without calling tech-support every time they want to watch something on TV. I ended up discovering a neat little $7 Mac app called Beamer. Nothing could be simpler: when you open Beamer you get a little window that says "Drop Movie Here". You drag the AVI file over to that window on your Mac and just like magic the file starts playing on your TV through Apple TV. In essence any computer within WiFi range of the Apple TV can thus beam AVI files to the TV and you can use either the Apple TV included remote or any iPod/iPhone/iPad with the Remote app installed to control the video experience. 

Overall I am quite impressed with this $99 little Apple product. For now it is sold as a niche product, and few casual iPhone or iPad fans are even aware of its existence. But it made me rethink whether Apple actually need to enter the physical TV business at all. The same way they now include an MLB.com or NBA channel, couldn't they include HBO or CNN, FOX and CBS ? These could even be apps on one's iPhone or iPad and would beam straight to an Apple TV. There are so many ways that this could work, provided of course that Apple find a way to convince the current "gatekeepers" to play along. One of the main problems at the moment is the fact that a great number of Cable TV providers also pump internet service into people's homes. I can't imagine the Cable TV companies rolling over and letting Apple eat into their profits without putting up a fight. But in the long term the old model of Cable TV subscriptions is bound to come to an end. Those who realise early that the rules are being rewritten and manage to roll with the punches and reinvent themselves will stand a better chance of surviving. I have no doubt that five years from now TV viewing will look nothing like what we have today, and the type of innovation that is driving that change is available to us today, for a mere $99.

Friday
Mar162012

Deeply disappointed

   

There had been so many rumors about the new retina display on the 3rd generation of iPads that I was convinced, beyond a shadow of a doubt, that rather than present a line-up of iPads with 16, 32 and 64 GB, the new line-up would consist of 32, 64 and 128 GB units. Imagine my disappointment when I realized we would probably have to wait one more year for that change to take place. Let's face it: in order to take advantage of the retina display, owners of the new machines will want to watch 1080p video, they'll want apps that have higher resolutions than the current ones etc. All of that takes up a lot of space. I don't have enough room on my 1st generation iPad with 64 GB so how would things work out with the new one ?

Time will tell. Already we see that only a handful of apps were properly rewritten to take advantage of the new screen resolution. Even Instapaper, the app everyone expected would be ready on the day the new iPad came out, has not yet been released because of a last minute surprise from Apple. The Apple apps that were updated last week already show the bloat that accompanies the higher resolution, and in actuality some of the universal iPhone/iPad apps will carry the bloat over to the iPhone as well.

No doubt the reason for this decision by Apple has to do with the cost of flash memory. Chances are no 128 GB units could be produced to match the price of current 64 GB iPads. So the question is do I wait one more year before upgrading ?